Coloring doesn’t necessarily always have to start with a blank sheet. You can print your original digital drawing or the tons of beautiful printable coloring pages available online and color them in.
However, it gets tricky when you want to fill in using watercolors. Often, many individuals are left wondering if it’s even possible to print such artwork on thick watercolor paper.
Other times, printing on watercolor paper has nothing to do with coloring. It could be the only paper available to you at the moment, or you are trying to find other uses for it, like making cards.
So, can you print on watercolor paper? You can print on watercolor paper as long as your printer is able to handle the weight. Watercolor paper ranges between 90lb and 400lb, while most printers are designed for paper from 20lb to 32lb.
You may also want to consider whether the printer ink is compatible with watercolor paint if you plan on painting over it.
If you’ve been hoping to print on watercolor paper for any reason but are unsure of how to go about it, read on. In this post, we dish out valuable information on how to do it successfully.
Tips For Printing Onto Watercolor Paper
You can print many things on watercolor paper; color swatch cards, image outlines to color in, or photos. However, the process is not as straightforward as with regular printer paper.
Watercolor paper is not designed for printing but rather painting or coloring with watercolors. Therefore, you need a different approach because it feels different, accepts ink differently, and weighs more.
Treating it as your standard printer paper could potentially damage your printer or lead to dismal results, wasting expensive paper, precious ink, and your own time. To avoid putting the cart before the horse, here are helpful tips for printing on watercolor paper.
1. Check your printer’s maximum acceptable paper weight.
Printers have different capabilities, but most of the printers for home use will not print heavy paper. Attempting to print beyond its limits will certainly jam the printer or raise other technical issues.
Watercolor paper is a heavy kind of paper. The thickness can range from anything between 90 lbs and 300 lbs.
90 lb paper is thinner and considered students grade watercolor paper. 140 lb watercolor paper is the most ubiquitous and widely used paper weight by artists of all levels.
There’s also 300 lb watercolor paper, which is the thickest of the three. Therefore, you must be aware of the maximum paper weight your printer can handle.
This information is available on the user manual and sometimes indicated on the machine. You can also check online or ask a servicing representative.
If you have not bought the watercolor paper yet, then you can go slightly thinner than the maximum weight for your printer. Remember, pushing your machine beyond the stated limits voids any warranty.
If you don’t have a printer yet but are considering buying one or printing somewhere else, your best bet will be with models that print up to 300 lb watercolor paper.
2. Check the size of the watercolor paper.
In addition to the weight of the watercolor paper, you must also consider the size before printing. Watercolor paper comes in a range of standard sheet sizes.
It can be as big as 30″ x 22″ and as small as 12″ x 9″. There are other sizes in between.
The watercolor paper you have may be too big for the printer input size. The maximum measurement is usually indicated on the printer somewhere around the paper input or on the specifications.
A printer that can print as wide as 19″, accommodates a range of watercolor paper sizes. There are wider models though, for printing larger rolls.
If you have a home printer and your watercolor paper doesn’t seem to fit into the input plate, don’t lose hope. You can adjust it to the ideal size by carefully measuring and trimming off the excess inches from the sides of the page.
3. Consider the texture of the watercolor paper.
There are two kinds of watercolor paper; hot press or cold press. Depending on the type you have, you may find it has two smooth sides or one ragged side.
Hotpress watercolor paper is the smooth type of watercolor paper, while the cold press is the textured type. These papers will produce different results when printed.
Usually, the smooth one yields vivid and brighter images than the textured type. It is less absorbent and great for paint washes over ink.
A textured watercolor paper will accept ink more readily due to the indentation and grains on the surface from roughed-up fibers. It results in a less defined print as the ink is absorbed more and outlines become frizzy.
Therefore, most people will opt for smooth surface watercolor paper for vivid prints. Notwithstanding, if you are aiming for more depth and a textured finish after water-coloring, it is the cold press watercolor paper that will give you that effect.
4. Load the printer input feed appropriately.
Once you have the right paper weight, size, and texture you want, it’s time to print. You must load the printer by removing the regular printing paper and replacing it with your watercolor paper.
Do not place the watercolor paper on top of the regular printing paper, no matter how few sheets you have. It is best to put it on an empty tray.
Before putting the watercolor paper into the input tray, you must familiarize yourself with all the paper input slots at your disposal. Many home printers have a front input feed.
With a front input feed printer, the paper is fed from the front. This type of printer is often associated with jamming and tearing the paper because it is curved through a roller 180 degrees.
If this is already happening with flimsy regular paper, chances are it will with watercolor paper too, since it is more rigid. Still, this is not always the case, and you may print without such tears or jamming.
However, an inline printer is the perfect printer for watercolor paper. That’s because when printing, the paper is not flexed. It goes in flat and is printed that way.
If you have a front input feed printer and are worried about potential ripping or jamming, you can check for a secondary feeding slot. Many modern printer models have a rear feed option which many individuals know nothing about.
Try checking your machine’s specifications online for this optional slot at the back. It is usually friendlier on thicker paper like watercolor paper.
5. Adjust the printing settings for watercolor paper printing.
Do not forget to change the print settings to suit printing on watercolor paper. After selecting paper size and orientation, the critical bit is determining the kind of paper.
On the paper, option is a drop-down list of different papers, and watercolor paper is not among the choices, which leaves many confused.
What should you put there? Normally you’d go for plain paper with regular printing. But with watercolor paper printing, choose photo paper.
The photo paper profile comes close to watercolor paper; excellent results are produced at that setting even with watercolor paper.
6. Use high-quality water and smudge-proof ink.
If you are printing an outline that you will wash over with watercolors, you don’t want the presumably black ink mixing with your colors. This shift is bound to happen if the ink is water-soluble or of poor quality.
It is even worse if the black is not pure but a combination of several colors. That means you’ll have multiple individual colors running.
You are better off with high-quality ink that is practically waterproof and smudge resistant. There are a couple of options available but be prepared to pay a hefty price for.
Can Watercolor Paper Go Through A Laser Printer?
It is not recommended to print watercolor paper on a laser printer. First, the results will be dismal because laser printers use toners in place of ink.
The toner particles are not very friendly toward watercolor paper. They will not adhere well to watercolor paper, as it lacks a special coating. Also, the heat is produced in excess and beyond what watercolor paper can handle.
Most importantly, a laser printer is too darn expensive for such uncertainties. You don’t want to risk damaging it. If you must print on watercolor paper, it is best to use an inkjet printer.
Inkjet printers utilize wet ink, which the watercolor paper can absorb. Just ensure it has a minimum resolution of 1200×4800 dpi or higher to yield results of acceptable sharpness.
And that’s how to print on watercolor paper. The results can be as close or as far away from your expectations as the type of printer, ink, and also the quality of watercolor paper matters.
In a nutshell, you need the best printer for watercolor paper and the best watercolor paper for printing as the regular ones just don’t cut it.
Luckily, today printers have evolved massively and are more inclusive of various art media, including watercolor paper. You just need to know what to look for.
The best approach is to experiment extensively by mixing and matching these three determinants before investing entirely in anything. Print out as many test samples to be sure of how the print turns out.
There’s a learning curve involved, so be sure to have fun while at it. Good luck with your watercolor paper prints!
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